Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (Hayao Miyazaki / Japan, 1979):
(Rupan sansei: Kariosutoro no shiro )

The titular hero is a descendant of Leblanc’s Parisian gentleman thief, and just as much of a scalawag. The opening adduces a note from Topkapi (and That Man from Rio) and establishes a harmony of animated backgrounds and movement before giving way to an auto chase (fugitive in bridal gown, carload of goons, coastal daredevilisms) that surely excited the jealousy of every Bond director. The structure finds two European families with matching antique emblems, one castle has been burned while another is guarded by water and hordes of stooped ninjas; the Count of Cagliostro, the megalomaniacal regent (and master-counterfeiter) plans to fuse the clans under his command by marrying Princess Clarisse, who’s kept prisoner in a tower with walls engraved with astronomical signs (vide The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse). Arsene Lupin to the rescue. Hayao Miyazaki understands the proceedings as a dilation of the original series, and suspends it between pursuits with appearances from regulars like hepcat cohort Jigen, taciturn swordslinger Goemon, frisky rival Fujiko, and exasperated Inspector Zenigata. The modulation from capper suavity to brisk Dumas-like derring-do is quicksilver, the variety of treatments (a fortress with lasers as well as clock towers, somehow amalgamating medieval, Victorian and Roman architecture into a Nipponic whole) quite enthralling. In a sense, the heroic theatrics seem as alien to Miyazaki as they did to Ophüls in The Exile, and indeed both filmmakers give the impression of wanting to focus more on the soulful female protagonists than on the guys dashing from rooftop to rooftop. Still, who else would have left room in this breathless dash for such grace notes as Lupin’s respect for the centuries-old skeletons crowding the castle’s dungeons ("Rest in peace, all of you"), or the way the Princess stops in the middle of a shootout to make sure the sidekicks are okay ("Please be careful. I’ll never forget your chivalry")? Adapted from the Monkey Punch manga.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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